Science fiction movies are proof that human imagination knows no ends. What is impossible and fools paradise right now, maybe someone’s reality in the future. Scientists and inventors have demonstrated, over and over that there is nothing that a human brain cannot achieve, a person has to be courageous enough to imagine it. Right from Aristarchus of Samos and his heliocentric world, the murder of Socrates for his ideas to the obsession of Nicola Tesla with number three and a pigeon, they werecalled crazy but their ideas weren’t. In today’s world, we see these ideas transformed into the fantasy world of science fiction, where we see avengers, superheroes fighting supervillains with superpowers. Accept it or not we all secretly want those super gadgets to be real! Right from Jetson’s flying cars to the iron man suit of Tony Stark few dreams have come true. Let’s have a detailed look at the ‘blackfly’ the flying car and ‘jet suit’ the flying suit.
What is Blackfly?
Blackfly is a combination of a helicopter and an aeroplane with two wings and eight spinning rotors across its nose and tail. The vehicle is an electric-powered VTOL (vertical takeoff and landing) personal air vehicle and was tested in California. It was first introduced in 2018 and now it’s expected to be available in markets. It is designed by Canadian Marcus Leng under his company Opener Inc. The speciality of blackfly is that it can take off, hover and land without a runaway which saves a lot of time and fuel. The blackly is big enough for a 6‘6“ person and can fly 40 km without recharging. The aircraft is made from carbon fibre reinforced epoxy. The blackfly is controlled by a joystick with a thumb control for height. The flight was tested unmanned most of the time, it’s like a flying Tesla. There are two batteries for every motor located in the wings controlled by software. To avoid power failure adjecent batteries that are cross-connected.
The Federal Aviation Regulations pose a problem as landing pads need to be built, but blackfly is an ultralight vehicle and these rules, for now, won’t apply to it.
Who else is in the flying car market?
It all began in 2009 when Larry page was not satisfied with self-driving cars and wanted something crazier like flying cars. These meetings with Sebastien Thurn and other Stanford University professors led to a delusion called the Wild West of aviation.
Apart from Marcus Leng’s company Opener, Kitty Hawk which is run by Sebastien Thrun, founder of the Google self-driving car project and Whisk Aero which is a branch out of Kitty Hawk are into this business. All of these companies are backed and funded by Larry Page of Google and Boeing, it involves big money, big investment and lots of returns. The blackfly is supposed to be piloted by a single person flying across rural areas. The federal regulations have not cleared blackfly to be flown in urban areas yet. The blackfly right now is very expensive than an average car worth One crore rupees. At such a high cost it is nothing but a toy for billionaires, but research and development will ensure that it’s not just limited to a toy in future. Another shortcoming of flying cars is the noise it generates. Blackfly is the cheapest solo flying taxi whereas Uber‘s flying taxi is supposed to fly more people to reduce cost. There are players like Joby aviation who have started creating infrastructure in urban areas so that their models can get federal aviation approval and fly as well. Joby Aviation is expected to launch its car in 2024.
Let’s talk about the iron man suit-
The jet suit which is a new hype is invented by a British Richard Browning founder of Gravity Industries. The jet suit is named an Mk2 flying suit. It’s like a VTOL being attached to your body, MK2 uses miniature jet engines,two on each arm and a fifth one on the backpack. The suit creates 143 kilograms of thrust and makes 1050 brake horsepower, it can carry up to 19 litres of jet fuel. The suit will lift a man weighing up to 90 kg into the air for four minutes. The new version MK3 has a higher flight time of about seven minutes and a higher speed. Richard Browning indeed is the Real-life iron man. The suit cost over three crore rupees but research and development will make sure that the suit one day is affordable by common man. Richard Browning instead of making this suit billionaire’s play toy leases the suit to the military rescue and entertainment industry. Browning says, “you are free to go wherever your mind takes you, there are no ties of gravity and yet you also aren’t a passenger sitting on or in a flight machine. You are flying as a human“.
Who is Richard Browning?
Richard Browning is the chief test pilot and founder of Gravity Industries. His being the chief test pilot shows his confidence in his inventions. Gravity Industries is based in Salisbury, United Kingdom. It’s funded by WIRED magazine and Red Bull. Time magazine featured Browning and the Jet suit amongst the best invention of 2018. The suit MK3 set a world record for fastest flight by a human-controlled suit in 2019. Browning before becoming an inventor was with the British Navy and an oil trader. Gravity industries jet suit is different from other jet suits because the thrusters are attached to hands and feet just like iron man’s suit. The pilot can spread his arms to feel lifted and point downwards to gather more trust. Propelling the suit is more like using your mind to fly rather than pressing buttons and steering the joystick. The initial experiment set out by Browning was based on the concept ‘using the human mind to balance and control body to fly’, hence the distinctive design. To increase earnings and entertainment Gravity Industries is now sporting an international jet suit racing series, but it was postponed because of Covid 19. To avoid accidents the racecourse is spread over lakes, rivers and seafronts. Anyone can learn to drive the jet suit and Browning’s company provides tutorials where drivers are trained with tethering ropes so that they don’t fall from a height above their knees. An average person can learn to fly the suit in 15 minutes cumulative time.
If these models are so costly, how can a common man ever dream to fly?
Browning said in an interview that the initial price of the jet suit is costly need not mean that it will be costly forever. When cars were first introduced they were economically unviable than traditional carts, but now cars are cheaper, faster convenient and carts are in museums. He hopes the same future for Jet suits, striving for continuous and comprehensive research and development which will make this technology cheaper, faster, eco-friendly, high flight time and viable. He said that he is just a pioneer and what can emerge in decades to come may surprise all of us. Browning already demonstrated with the MK3 suite that research will ensure affordability.
The same is expected from flying cars where continuous research, sharing of data across companies will ensure that they are available to the common man. The research will increase its flight time, reduce its weight and reduce the noise.
Indeed these were sci-fi fantasy once but now they are a reality, changing and enriching lives.